Monday, March 07, 2005

Humor In Young Adult Literature

Humor In Young Adult Literature: A Time To Laugh by Walter Hogan (Scarecrow, 2005). A professional resource book that features chapters on YA humor with regard to: family; friends; bullies; authorities and adversaries; what's wrong with me?; could this be love?; the ironic perspective; and coming of age: who am I, and what am I going to do about it?

I was just talking about Joan Bauer's books, which include a great deal of humor (plus related resource links). And of course I'm married to Greg Leitich Smith, a 'tweener comedy writer. Even my own books, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (Harper, 2001) and Indian Shoes (Harper, 2002), have their share of light moments as does my forthcoming YA gothic fantasy novel. So, I was interested to read Walter's book and get more of an overview.

Some of my favorite YA humor titles he mentions are: Burger Wuss (Candlewick, 1999) and Thirsty (Candlewick, 1997) by M.T. Anderson; Backwater (Putnam, 1999) and Hope Was Here (Putnam, 2000) by Joan Bauer; Fat Kid Rules The World by K.L. Going (Putnam, 2003); Geography Club by Brent Hartinger (HarperTempest, 2003); Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl (Houghton Mifflin, 2001); Confess-O-Rama by Ron Koertge (Orchard, 1996); Son Of The Mob by Gordon Korman (Hyperion, 2002); Dunk by David Lubar (Clarion, 2002)(read the first chapter); Holes by Louis Sachar (FSG, 1998); How I Spent My Last Night On Earth by Todd Strasser (Simon & Schuster, 1998), and Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger (Simon & Schuster, 1999).

Cynsational News & Links

Interviews with K.L. Going, Brent Hartinger, David Lubar, and Ellen Wittlinger are available on my Web site (use the search engine provided). See also Multicultural Humor, Seriously.

Trivia: (1) I'll be a guest faculty member at Vermont College, which offers an MFA program in writing for children and YAs, this summer, and Toby Anderson and Ron Koertge also teach there. (2) David Lubar is the most fun person to play with at a teacher/librarian conference. (3) K.L. Going used to be my agent's assistant. She's adorable and brilliant! (4) Louis Sachar lives in Austin. I've only met him once, though, at the Texas Book Festival. He was there with his daughter and very nice!

I received a note last week, telling me about the joy and excitement my picture book, Jingle Dancer (Morrow/Harper, 2000), has brought to Native children in Washington State. To all of them, I say, keep reading, dancing, and believing in yourselves!

Finally, books I'm watching for lately include: Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States, selected by Lori Marie Carlson (Henry Holt, 2005)(by the best-selling anthologist of Cool Salsa). Note: I have a short story coming out in another of Lori's anthologies, Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today (Harper, 2005).

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Niche Marketing Children's and YA Books

Much like author Esme Raji Codell, my approach to promotion has been a global one, doing what I can to promote the body of children's and YA literary trade books as a whole.*

I do so via my Web site and blogs, when I speak to the media and in-person audiences, and as part of the children's/YA community.

It's impossible to say what particular effort generates what percentage of sales/readership/name recognition, so I've simply taken the advice of one of my early mentors, author Jane Kurtz, who told me to try to do at least one thing a week--however small--in support of the books (in my case, in support of the big picture--all books) and to think of the process as spreading seeds. You never know which ones will grow proud and strong.

As for my publishers, I'm pleased with their efforts. HarperCollins has been most generous in sponsoring me at state and national conferences, providing promotional pieces, and they're making efforts to expand their online marketing. I'm new to Candlewick Press, but the house has a lovely reputation in this area.

That said, I know that certain expectations come with being an author and word-spreading seems to be near the top of the list. So, I do have to focus specifically on promoting my own work, too.

For me, so far the most effective marketing seems to be niche marketing, and therefore, I focus on those communities that might have an interest in me or my work.

In other words: Who Am I, and Who Cares? (They might buy/read my books!) What Are My Books About, and Who Cares? (They might, too!).

Everyone has a potential promotional hit list for their book(s)/body of work; in case it helps, here's a very abbreviated version of mine:

Author Cynthia Leitich Smith
audiences: picture book through young adult
qualities: formerly in journalism/law; lived in KS, MO, MI, IL, TX, OK;
note: sent press kit to alumni magazines, all relevant (parenting, legal, ethnic, mainstream) hometown (past and present) newspapers and magazines; made sure books were entered in all regional contests for which I was eligible; added "Texas author" stickers to postcards sent in Texas; took out ads in the TLA Journal.

Jingle Dancer, Rain Is Not My Indian Name, and Indian Shoes
topics: Native Americans (specifically contemporary); interracial families; intergenerational relationships
settings: mid-to-southwest
media time hooks: grandparent's day; Native American heritage month
note: sent press kit to Native media and mainstream media in mid-to-southwest for Grandparent's Day and Native American Heritage Month**
related: sent postcards to Native American, mid-to-southwest and natural history museum bookstores; added "set in Kansas," "set in Oklahoma," "set in Chicago/Illinois" stickers to cards (promoting relevant books) sent to those states; wrote articles on contemporary Native children's/YA and interracial family fiction for various magazines

You must also continue to promote your backlist. It's a commitment for the life of the book. Yes, you do want to push that front-list book, but you should also try to make sure it connects with young readers for years to come.

As someone who promotes other authors and illustrators online, I suggest having your author site up and running at least six months prior to the release of the ARCs or F&Gs and making sure the site includes: the basic information, an-at-least-monthly updated feature, and something special (you're the author/illustrator; your site should offer visitors a more personal experience than the publishers'). Also, keep it fresh; update with new and changing information.

That said, it's never too late. You can't go back in time, but you can jump in now!

This may seem overwhelming, but remember, it can be done on a one-task-a-week basis, particularly if you start early and keep up with it. What works for one person might not for another, but be willing to try and see. Share information. Support one another. You can do it!

As an author, you're an ambassador for children's/YA literature and literacy! Spread the word that good books matter!

Go, promote, sell! Yay!

*which is not to say I haven't at times also promoted graphic novels, mass market books, and professional resource titles.
**send early to magazines, up to six months early.

note: this blog entry is adapted from my recent post on Children's Writing Biz, which is moderated by author Anastasia Suen.

Cynsational Links

The Art of the Matter: Promotion for Illustrators by author/illustrator Katie Davis.

bjliterary's journal: a live journal from agent Barry Goldblatt; see his recent post on author market. See also Q's & A's with an agent by Barry Goldblatt.

Wide-Eyed and Curious: Working with Young Children in Groups by author Shutta Crum.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Author Lisa Wheeler

My friend, author Lisa Wheeler, spoke this week in Austin to a number of audiences, including Austin SCBWI. I was lucky enough to attend her signing at BookPeople on Friday and a dinner thrown in her honor last night by Austin SCBWI RA/author Julie Lake (whose debut novel was Galveston: Summer of the Storm).

At BookPeople, Lisa spoke about Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta, working with illustrator Mark Siegel and editor Dick Jackson, and the auction of her first book, One Dark Night, illustrated by Ivan Bates. It was a good crowd, including authors Julie Lake, Jane Peddicord (author of Night Wonders), and Lila Guzman (author of Lorenzo's Secret Mission).

Greg and I--along with author Anne Bustard, author of Buddy: The Story Of Buddy Holly--picked up Lisa for the party at her hotel and brought her to and from Julie's house. They share an illustrator in Kurt Cyrus and discussed him in glowing terms as Greg and I tried to decipher the yahoomap.

It was quite the star-studded event, including such literary luminaries as: Frances Hill, author of The Bug Cemetery; Liz Garton Scanlon, author of A Sock Is A Pocket For Your Toes; Brian Yansky, author of My Road Trip to the Pretty Girl Capital of the World; and uber librarian/author Jeanette Larson.

Lisa is the author of numerous (lots and lots) picture books, most recently, Farmer Dale's Pick-Up Truck, illustrated by Ivan Bates (Harcourt, 2004), Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta, illustrated by Mark Siegel (who's heading up the new graphic novels imprint at Roaring Brook)(Simon & Schuster, 2004), and Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith (Little Brown, 2004).

Cynsational Links

An Interview With Lisa Wheeler from Debbi Michiko Florence.

Counting Sheep With Lisa Wheeler by Julia Durango from By The Book.

Humor Me: Articles, Essays, and Poems for Children's Writers from Lisa Wheeler.

Linda Joy Singleton Sponsors Writing Contest For Kids


From March 6, 2005 to June 5, 2005, young writers (ages 8 to 12) are challenged to "Describe an alien pet in 200 words or less."

This contest is sponsored by author Linda Joy Singleton in celebration of her new series, Strange Encounters, where 6th grader Cassie Strange encounters a fuzzy, dancing alien pet named Jennifer while solving magical mysteries on family trips. Young writers can let their imaginations go wild and create an alien pet of their own. Winning entries will be chosen by a panel of published authors including Linda Joy Singleton and Verla Kay, and judged on creativity and presentation.

The contest will ONLY run for three months. No essays will be accepted after June 5th, and the winners will be announced online by June 10th.

As a bonus, the first place winner's classroom or library will be awarded a set of autographed books.

The goal of this contest is to promote literacy and writing skills. For complete details go to where entrants can print out the entry form and read a list of ten writing tips for young writers. There is no entry fee.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Author Kathi Appelt and Illustrator Joy Hein on Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How A First Lady Changed America

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein (Harper, 2005). A picture book biography of Lady Bird Johnson. She loved wildflowers from her days as a young girl. Then, as First Lady, she found her own way to beautify the United States. Via Kathi Appelt's poetic voice and Joy Fisher Hein's vivid illustrations, Lady Bird's life springs from the page. Ages 4-up.

What was your inspiration for creating this book?

Kathi's answer

KA: When I was a little girl, growing up in Houston, my grandmother, Marge Crawford, was a very active member of the Democratic Party, and on Saturdays, she would take my sisters and I downtown to party headquarters. As soon as we could write in cursive, she had us addressing envelopes, sticking stamps on them and any number of odds and ends for the cause. She even took us block-walking. (Now you know why my affiliation with the party is so apt--it's genetic).

KA (con't): Anyway, the first presidential campaign that I remember participating in in a big way was the Johnson campaign in 1964. I was in the fourth grade. One evening, my whole family went to a big rally in Houston, and that was the first time I ever saw Mrs. Johnson in person. I was so impressed. First of all, LBJ himself was a very tall man. But Lady Bird was tiny. She came up to his shoulders I think. But to me, she was larger than life. I've been a fan of hers ever since.

KA (con't) So, a few years ago, I read an article about her in The Christian Science Monitor. It was just a small piece with a lovely photo of her standing in a field of bluebonnets. Those flowers reminded me of Joy, who was studying wildlife habitats at the Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, and suddenly it occurred to me that there should be a book about Mrs. Johnson for young readers, and that Joy and I could do it together. I rolled it over in my mind, and despite all the warnings about never teaming up with an illustrator, we entered the project together and began working on it.

Joy's answer

JFH: My work was inspired by Lady Bird’s vision for our environment and nature’s amazing biodiversity. I have admired Lady Bird since I was a teenager. As an artist, gardener and Master Naturalist, I was thrilled with the possibility of creating and sharing images of our First Lady’s life and our glorious wildflowers.

JFH (con't): Kathi Appelt is always an inspiration; she is the First Lady of writing in my book. She is my dear friend and mentor. Kathi is an amazing writer and a wise teacher. I have had the delightful opportunity to study writing with her several times over the years. I have celebrated and collected all of her wonderful books. Kathi’s words of wisdom have seen me through some very difficult times.

JFH (con't): To top off my list of inspirations was the opportunity to work with Kathi’s long-time editor and friend, Meredith Charpentier. Meredith had taken an interest in my work a year before our Lady Bird book proposal. After viewing my portfolio, Meredith invited me to submit projects to her at HarperCollins. The three of us worked toward our goal of forming our Lady Bird book for three years. Sadly, Meredith retired due to ill health and the stress of September 11th. Tragically, she died not too long after retiring. Meredith was so generous with me. I will always be grateful to her.

JFH (con't): In stepped Rosemary Brosnan, Executive Editor, HarperCollins Children’s Books and dear friend to Meredith, to rescue our book. I had hoped to work with Rosemary for years. In 1997, I had the opportunity to go to New York and drop off my portfolio at several of my favorite publishers. Rosemary, was an editor with Lodestar. She kept my art samples and wrote me a lovely, encouraging note. So when I traveled back to Texas, I hoped I might work with her in the future, but Lodestar closed and I didn’t know where to reach her. Then I met and started working with Meredith. I had no idea they knew one another, much less that their offices were next to each other!

JFH (con't): Working with these women, who I so admired--Kathi, Meredith and Rosemary--with the goal of sharing Lady Bird’s life had me pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I was finally fulfilling my lifelong dream of illustrating a book for children.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

Kathi's answer

KA: For the full low-down, you can read Joy's answer to this question. Suffice it to say that we had multiple bumps along the way, especially during the period when the publisher decided that they did not want to use Joy's art. That was very painful because it had been a collaboration all along.

KA (con't): Altogether, it was a six-year journey. During that time, both of us lost our fathers, I lost a grandmother, our kids left home, Joy's son and daughter got married, a grand baby arrived. There were also a number of events in the world that affected us. September 11th changed so much. For me personally, it meant that my longtime editor and friend, Meredith Charpentier, who had championed this book from the start, got so sick. Her apartment was not far from the Trade Center, and her health took a serious downturn. At the same time, my agent, Marilyn Marlow became very sick too. Within a month of each other, they both passed away. For at least a year afterwards, I couldn't seem to write, it was as if nothing I had to say had any relevance.

KA (con't): Thankfully, that feeling passed, but it has taken me all this time to really get back to my desk in a fruitful and honest way. And just when we needed her most, Rosemary Brosnan, Meredith's associate and friend, stepped in and held our hands and led this book through its final stages.

Joy's answer

JFH: Our Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers began with an early morning phone call from Kathi Appelt in 1999. Both proud Texans and friends since the 1980’s, we were excited about creating a book that would celebrate Lady Bird and her legacy of wildflowers that turned our once neglected roadsides into pallets of brilliant living color. As we laid plans for this book, Kathi continued to write amazing, award winning books for children and share her knowledge with classes all over the country. Meanwhile, I became certified as a Texas Master Naturalist and became certified to create School yard Habitats with The National Wildlife Federation.

JFH (con't): Well, that is the short sweet version of the six years from spark to publication, but life happened. Kathi and I lost our dear fathers. Meredith’s mother died and then we lost her. Kathi’s loving grandmother passed away. Lady Bird had a stroke. We were so very sad.

JFH (con't): We shared joyous times too. In our family, my son Christopher married Karen and two years later their sweet Willow joined our growing family. We celebrated with a five generation photograph, with my soon-to-be ninety-nine year old grandmother, my mother and grandson Seth. My youngest daughter, Holly, graduated from the University of Texas, in three and a half years, with honors and a wonderful fiancés, fellow artist, Bryson. They started a mural business and married too.

JFH (con't): There was one very difficult period of several months that caused me to give up my dream of illustrating this book or any other. When Kathi and I started this project I knew there were no guarantees. It’s a big "no, no" for a writer and illustrator to collaborate. But we were at a place where everything seemed so positive. I had received e-mails from Meredith stating that she was enthusiastic about our new venture at HC and my style was "just right." I even heard from her assistant, saying she looked forward to working with me and she likes my work! But no contract was offered. Meredith reassured us with "everything looks good."

JFH (con't): In the meantime, friends of my dear late mother-in-law and mutual friends of Lady Bird, decided this project was not moving fast enough. So they graciously organized a brunch for Kathi and me to show and explain our book goals. They planned to hand deliver the project to Lady Bird and she would get the ball rolling! I tried to explain that this isn’t the way children’s publishing works. They insisted.

JFH (con't): The day before the brunch I was offered a wonderful illustration contract with the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. I turned it down due to my desire to finish our Lady Bird project and thinking my contract with HarperCollins was imminent.

JFH (con't): Kathi called late that night to try and gently tell me about her conversation with Meredith. Meredith told Kathi that the sales department at HarperCollins wanted a well-known artist, not me! Kathi was upset. I was devastated! I canceled brunch and crawled under a rock. How I wished I hadn’t shared my excitement for this project with friends and family. My life-long dream was shattered.

JFH (con't): A few weeks later my husband, Frank, experienced health problems. We decided he should retire after being an art professor for thirty-five years and we would move back to our lake home. We had agreed three years before not to move in the middle of my Lady Bird project, because of the volumes of research organized in my San Antonio studio.

JFH (con't): I was invited to have my first one-woman painting show in years. As I helped hang my paintings, I developed an awful earache and my scalp felt like it was on fire. It hurt to touch my hair! At the same time, Frank was out in the country, alone, organizing things for our move back to Medina Lake. Frank had heart attack.

JFH (con't): While Frank’s new cardiologist was explaining angioplasty, our family doctor was telling me that my facial paralysis is Bell’s Palsy.

JFH (con't): Frank has an angioplastic procedure and a week later he has another angioplasty placing a stent in his blocked artery. Before his surgery, he held my hand and told me if the procedure didn’t work; he had no regrets, his life, our life had been full and happy. His bittersweet words rang in my ear; our life together was my very best dream come true…but I had a regret--not being able to illustrate our Lady Bird book!

JFH (con't): The phone was ringing as I opened the door, the day I brought Frank home from ICU. It was Meredith, telling me she and HarperCollins would like me to illustrate the Lady Bird book, and apologized for the past. My contract should be drawn up soon. Months passed.

JFH (con't): Oct. 1, 2001, Meredith wanted changes in Kathi’s manuscript! My contract states my dummy was due Oct. 30th! Five months later Meredith called to tell me she is retiring and how she wished we could have worked together in her glory days.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

Kathi's answer

KA: Just as we were embarking upon this project, one of our biggest desires was to actually get to interview Mrs. Johnson, but almost as soon as we began, she became quite ill and quit granting interviews. That was a major setback for us. Fortunately, we were able to contact some of the people who work closely with her, including her daughter Mrs. Robb. She guided us to folks who helped us, gave us answers, steered us in the direction we needed to go at the moment.

KA (con't): One of the biggest challenges for me was focusing the manuscript. Lady Bird's life is so full and rich and there is so much to say about her that I found it amazingly hard to find the heart of this particular story.

KA (con't): From the outset, I knew we would center this book upon Mrs. Johnson's environmental activism and her own personal love for nature. But she has led such an interesting life, and there are so many anecdotes and details and moments that I loved reading about, that I wanted to include ALL of it. Like Joy said, I think I rewrote the story no fewer than fifty times, and bless her heart, Joy probably started this book that many times, just based on the current rewrite. There was a point when Meredith called and said, "Kathi, it's not quite there yet," when I thought, okay, I'm never going to get it.

KA (con't): But I think maybe that's the point all of us have to reach as writers and artists--the point where we have to take a deep breath and jump. At that moment, I began cutting away everything that was not pertinent to Mrs. Johnson's dedication to the environment. And trust me when I say that was a LOT. And it was heartbreaking in a way. Because I admire Mrs. Johnson so much, I wanted to tell everything I knew. And something that I had to do too, was to step outside of my admiration for her and to try to get as objective a look as I could.

KA (con't): It's important for an author to love their subject. But it's also important not to love it so much that you can't see it. When I finally stepped back, I was able to see the true heart of what I wanted to say. And I was so lucky that I had this amazing quote from Lady Bird in which she stated, "wildflowers are the stuff of my heart." That's what I had to find--the stuff of my heart, and in the end, that was what Joy and I wrapped our story and art around--wildflowers.

KA (con't): For years, in my teaching, when it came to this genre--picture book biographies--I have always said that one of the roles of this particular animal is to give the reader a "glimmer" of the person, not so much that you're telling an entire life, but just enough that anyone who reads the book will close the last page and say, "I want to know more." That's the task of a picture book biography--to offer a glimpse of a life well-lived in such a way that the reader is encouraged to look further. It's both a constraint and a wonder, all at the same time.

KA (con't): So my huge hope for this book is that it will not only bring Mrs. Johnson some much deserved recognition, but also to bring the work she has done back into our national consciousness, to inspire readers young and old alike, to take a look at a small girl from deep East Texas and realize that one person can make a huge difference.

Joy's answer

JFH: In the early planning stages, Kathi and I made several research trips to the L.B.J. Library Archives and The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center, in Austin, Texas. It was important to me to know everything I could about Lady Bird’s life. In the Spring of 2000, I traveled from San Antonio, to Karnack, Texas--Lady Bird's home town. Staying in the nearby town of Uncertain, I explored Karnack, Caddo Lake, and Jefferson, I interviewed everyone I could find who knew Lady Bird and her family. I returned to my studio with over 400 photographs of the architecture and native flora and fauna in the region of Lady Bird's childhood.

JFH (con't): During the five years before my paintings were shipped to New York, I accumulated boxes and boxes of research. Kathi worked diligently on over fifty drafts of Lady Bird's story. I fell in love with every shared rendition, each inspiring me to create story boards and countless drawings that would lead up to the final paintings of our book. From April of 2002 to November of 2003, I enjoyed devoting myself to bringing Kathi’s eloquent Lady Bird story to life for young readers.

Cynsational News & Links

Kathi and Joy will be signing at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on April 10 from noon to 3 p.m. (go to Wild Ideas: The Store).

A First Lady Who Made A Difference by Alice Cary from BookPage; an interview with Kathi Appelt.

Secrets of Success: An Interview With Sudipta Bardhan (who has recently sold picture books to Chronicle, Charlesbridge, and Sterling) from author Ellen Jackson's Web site. Includes excellent insights into picture book writing; particularly timely in this tight market. If you haven't read them already, scroll for interviews with authors D.L. Garfinkle and Tanya Lee Stone.

Edith Tarbescu's Home Page: from the author of Annushka's Voyage (Clarion, 1998). Her recent releases include: The Crow (Franklin Watts, 2000); The Boy Who Stuck Out His Tongue: A Yiddish Folktale (Barefoot, 2000)(review and related interview from Julia Durango); and Bring Back My Gerbil (Cartwheel, 2002)(read chapter one). See also The Magic of Writing Children's Books by Edith Tarbescu from Author's Venue; and a photo of Edith with her pup, Winnie.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

"Riding With Rosa"

I'm thrilled to announce the publication of my YA short story, "Riding With Rosa" by Cynthia Leitich Smith, in the March/April 2005 issue of Cicada, a YA literary magazine, (p. 69, Vol. 7, No., 4). I hope y'all will look for it.

Author Sue Corbett

Just surfed over to Sue Corbett's site, and I wanted to highlight her as an author to know. (She also reviews children's books for the Miami Herald).

Sue's debut novel, 12 Again (Dutton, 2002) is the story of mother Bernadette and son Patrick, who are separated when Bernadette becomes 12 again, leaving Patrick to help manage a bustling household. Via email exchanges and mutual efforts, they must work to bring her (the 40-year-old her) home. Infused with Irish lore and magic, 12 Again is the rare hip, funny, suspenseful, affecting, perfect middle grade novel. Ages 8-up. Highly recommended.

When you visit Sue's site, be sure to sign the guest book to enter her monthly drawing for a free copy of 12 Again. Then peek in on Sue's visit at William Lehman Elementary.

Things Sue and I have in common: Irish heritage; passion for great books; reporting; novel-writing; a dislike of people who drive too fast on residential streets; a desire to be Lois Lane. Plus, her favorite quote is attributed to one of my heroes. Learn more about her.

Cynsational News

Author Susan Taylor Brown ( is building an online database of lesson plans/activities for books.

If you are interested in her featuring a particular title and related lesson/activity, email her with the following information:

1. Your name;

2. Title of book(s);

3. Direct link to the guide/lesson (not just global Web site address);

4. Topics covered in book (one word topics only separated by commas; i.e., divorce, geography, dogs);

5. Type of book: picture book (PB), easy reader (ER), chapter book (CB), middle grade (MG), young adult (YA); poetry (P).

Notes: (1) it doesn't matter if the curriculum materials were created by the author, illustrator, publisher, or some other source; (2) please feel free to forward this message.

Cynsational Links

Author Coleen Murtagh Paratore: new official site features biography, bibliography, photo gallery, and speaking events. Her titles include: How Prudence Proovit Proved The Truth About Fairy Tales and The Wedding Planner's Daughter. Note: I was struck by Coleen's mention that she went to the public library on Saturday mornings with her mama because I did, too.

The Imagination Library from the Dollywood Foundation. Note: I have loved Dolly since I heard her sing at the American Royal Rodeo in Kansas City on an elementary school field trip. I thought she looked like a fairy princess and sounded like an angel. In fact, "Rhinestone," co-starring Sylvester Stallone (1984) is one of my favorite movies. Yes, really!

Twisted Tales & Windy Writings: Author Kathryn Lay's Web site: official site from the author of Crown Me (Holiday House, 2004) and The Organized Writer Is A Selling Writer. She teaches an online class on writing for magazines and is the regional advisor for the NE/NC Texas Chapter of SCBWI.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson

A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2005). Zoe, 17, has had it with her alcoholic mother and manipulative grandmother. She moves out of the house and rents a room on Lorelei Street in hopes of a new start. But ghosts, living and dead, swirl around Zoe, trying to tug her back, and it's hard making ends meet as a diner waitress. Zoe's new landlady, Opal, has a fresh, hopeful perspective, but ultimately, Zoe's uncertain future rests in her own hands. Ages 12-up. Highly recommended.

My Thoughts

A Room On Lorelei Street spoke so powerfully that I could only handle it in small doses. I had to leave it sometimes, to gather strength, before returning again. But I also had to return. I had to know what happened.

I've been trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that caught me so completely. The depiction of lower socio-eco class rang true. Zoe's determination made me respect her and appreciate the depth of her struggle. I believed in the characters--the ones I liked and the ones I didn't. Reading this novel, thinking hard about its themes, will save at least one teen's life and inspire others to make better choices. That's important. But ultimately, the story and hero just swept me away.

Notes: (1) the cover on the ARC is not the final cover for the book; (2) the novel is set in Texas.

Mary's other YA novels are David v. God (Harcourt, 2000) and Scribbler of Dreams (Harcourt, 2001). Read her online journal.

Cynsational Links

Don't Take A Ride In Darnell Dixon's Rivy Dog of Love: Christopher Paul Curtis Talks About His New Book, Bucking The Sarge by Kay Smith from the fall 2004 ALAN review.

Get Back On That Horse And Write! by Bunny Miner from the Institute of Children's Literature. An article on making through a writing slump.

Julie's Blah Blah Blog from author Julie Anne Peters. Preview her new YA novel, Far From Xanadu (Megan Tingley, 2005)(beautiful cover art; I want that hair). Julie's previous novel, Luna (Megan Tingley, 2004)(read an excerpt), was a National Book Award finalist, and the one before that Keeping You A Secret (Megan Tingley, 2003) is one of my all-time faves.

Twenty Tips For Writing Picture Books by Pat Mora from Lee & Low Books. Read An Interview With Pat Mora from Melus.

Kid Magazine Writers with the caveat that content is kept up only a month. If you see something you like, print it for future reference. Bookmarking won't work long!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Read On Wisconsin!

I'm honored to report that Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Harper, 2002) has been chosen as this month's featured book for intermediate (grades 3-5) readers participating in Read On Wisconsin!

It's "a statewide book club for everyone who enjoys reading and talking about new books," sponsored by Jessica Doyle, the First Lady of Wisconsin. Read the flap copy and a special letter from me to Wisconsin young readers.

The other March 2005 books are: Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes (for infants, ages 0-2); Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Ehlert (for preschool, ages 3-5); Tomas And The Library Lady by Pat Mora (for primary, grades K-2); Miracle's Boys by Jacqueline Woodson (for middle school, grades 6-8); and A Step From Heaven by An Na (for High School, grades 9-12).

Cynsational Links

Go back to the week when I first heard Indian Shoes was chosen for this honor.

Learn more about Lois Ehler from Getting Personal with Lois Ehlert (an interview) by Edie Boatman from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Lois Ehlert Teacher Resource File from the Internet School Library Media Center. Includes links to biographies and lesson plans.

Interviews with Jacqueline Woodson are available from: Downhome Books and Penguin Putnam. See also Meet The Brothers of "Miracle's Boys" (a miniseries based on the book) by Marie Morreale from Scholastic News.

Read a review of A Step From Heaven by An Na from

For more information about Indian Shoes and an interview with author An Na, visit my Web site and use the search engine provided. See also my blog post about writing Indian Shoes.

Me, Cool?

I was called "Queen Kong" in fourth grade. I wore clothes with glitter threads into the 1980s. I read graphic novels back when they were still called "comic books." Watched "Star Wars: A New Hope" more than 300 times in the theater (before "A New Hope" was tagged onto the title). Listened to Barry Manilow as a teenager. Live to shop for office supplies! And yet...

According to, my blog and my honey's qualify as "cool writer blogs" (scroll to view the whole list). If they say so, it must be true! Thank you, smartwriters! I'm honored.

Book I'm reading right now: A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, June 2005); more on that soon!

Cynsational Links

Creating Successful Critique Groups with author Jill Rubalcaba: an ICL chat transcript.

An Interview With Jennifer Donnelly, author of A Northern Light, from Downhome Books. is sponsoring a contest wherein you can win 10 copies of this book for you and your friends/reading group; the deadline is March 18.

My Life In Books from author Heidi E.Y. Stemple. Does it surprise anyone that the little girl from Owl Moon grew up to be a children's author herself? Her titles include: Mirror, Mirror (Viking, 2000) and The Salem Witch Trials (Simon & Schuster, 2003), both written with Jane Yolen. Read An Interview With Jane Yolen from Downhome Books.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...